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REASON 1: Protect the freedom, dignity and equality of women through the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Why have a Charter of Fundamental Rights in the Lisbon Treaty?

The Charter of Fundamental Rights lays out clearly the values the European Union has to support, and the rights it has to protect, when it is making EU law.  These include:
  • human dignity, such as a ban on human cloning, a ban on human trafficking, and a ban on the death penalty.
  • freedom, such as the right to private and family life, and the right to education
  • equality, not only between women and men, but also for older people, children and people of different faiths
  • solidarity, such as the right of workers to negotiate with their employers, and also social solidarity in the form of public services like health and welfare
  • citizens’ democratic rights in the European Union
  • justice, such as the right to a fair trial.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights lays out the universal principles that govern the way the European Union conducts itself.  The EU can only make law in areas where the 27 member states have said that it can.  The Charter is an agreed blueprint for the way in which those laws should be made.

Importantly, the Charter balances the economic function of the EU, with the social, economic, civic and democratic needs of EU citizens.

How does it affect women specifically?

If the Lisbon Treaty is passed, the institutions of the EU (such as the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, the European Court of Justice) will have to ensure that no European Union law impinges on:
  • Equality between men and women
  • The right of women to protection from dismissal for a reason connected with maternity
  • The right to paid maternity leave
  • The right not to be trafficked or forced into servitude (most people trafficked to work in the sex industry or in domestic service are women)

How might it affect women in practice?

If Ireland implemented an EU directive in a way that, for example, impeded a woman’s right to paid maternity leave, instead of having to bring her case to the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg, she could challenge Ireland’s implementation of this directive in the Irish courts.